Students explore for majors

Ross Whitaker

Some 18-year-olds might feel the pressure to figure out the rest of their lives when their high school graduation day comes.

But WKU gives students an opportunity to explore their options when they’re undecided.

Louisville freshman Rachael Sheldon is one of about 1,800 other students in the exploratory studies major, according to the Academic Advising and Retention Center. The major is designed for those students who are unsure of what field/discipline they want to concentrate on in school.

Sheldon planned to attend Bellarmine University in Louisville but ended up at WKU. It was a last-minute decision that left her without a major.

Even though it feels like everyone around her seems to know what they want to do, says she isn’t worried.

“I don’t think you need to decide your life at 18,” Sheldon said, adding that her family and friends seem more concerned about her future than she is.

Lynn Hazlet-Sherry, the coordinator and adviser of the College of Health and Human Services, advises undeclared students in her college.

“It’s OK to explore,” she said. “Now’s the time to do it. Because what if you get three years into your major and have half of your major classes done and you decide, ‘Oh maybe this isn’t for me?'”

Hazlet-Sherry said students shouldn’t be worried about not having a major. The purpose of exploratory studies is to help students find their niche.

Kevin Thomas, the assistant director of undergraduate advising practices, advises and deals with students in exploratory studies every day. He said the AARC offers many services for undeclared students.

“Our goal is to provide as much as we can as far as resources go,” Thomas said.

The AARC has full-time advisers as well as student advisers who are available to speak with students, he said. They also use tools, such as personality tests, to help steer students in the right direction.

Thomas said he believes students are pressured and feel rushed to pick a major, but they shouldn’t be. He said that being exploratory is safe and allows the time needed to find the right fit while completing general education requirements.

His advice to undeclared students is to find out what their interests are. He also suggested talking to students to find out more about a particular major and not worrying about what parents, peers or anyone else thinks.

“Do what you want. This is your decision,” he said.

Hazlet-Sherry encourages students to take some introductory courses in different majors to find what they like. She said shadowing, or following professionals in a certain field, can also be a good way for students to find out if they want to pursue a particular major.

Sheldon also offered a few words of advice to her fellow undecided students – remain open-minded and try not to panic.